Florida is about to pass legislation that would be fine social media companies such as Twitter and Facebook that ‘deliberately de-platforms’ political candidates. The bill was first proposed in February by Governor Ron DeSantis, a supporter of former President Trump, though Republicans in Florida insist The bill has nothing to do with the former president, a famous social media resident who was banned by major platforms earlier this year.
The Florida House of Representatives has passed SB 7072 with a vote of 77 to 38 on Thursday, after the senate voted Monday to approve the measure. The bill is now going back to the Senate to approve some of the changes made by the House; the Senate version called for fines of $ 10,000 a day for banning a political candidate and $ 100,000 for running for election. The House version increased the daily fines to $ 25,000 and $ 250,000.
The law would not apply to temporary social media bans for a candidate, and would not apply to instances where a platform removes specific posts that violate that platform’s terms of service. But any social media ban that lasts longer than 60 days would result in a fine, and the platforms would have to make any content the candidate posted available before their account became inactive.
The bill also includes a very Florida-specific exemption for any “information service, system, Internet search engine or access software provider operated by a company that owns and operates” a theme park or large entertainment complex. Republican State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia said an exemption was included so that the Disney Plus streaming service “doesn’t get caught up in this.” The Disney World Park in Orlando brings in significant tax revenue for the state of Florida, which relies heavily on tourism dollars.
SB 7072 also prohibits social media platforms from restricting “ journalism ventures, ” which the bill defines as entities that do business in Florida and have at least 100,000 monthly active users or 50,000 paid subscribers. And the bill includes provisions for conservatives’ favorite social media bogeyman: shadow prohibition, which defines it rather opaque as “ action by a social media platform, in any way, whether the action is determined by a natural person or an algorithm, to prevent a user’s exposure or content or material posted by other users of the social media platform. “Users must have the option to opt out of the shadow ban and platforms cannot have shadow ban for political candidates or news websites.
Republican supporters of SB 7072 say the measure is to protect the freedom of speech of Florida residents and “is not about President Trump.” But the bill’s provisions seem aligned with the GOP’s grievances over social media and the 2020 presidential election. Trump was permanently banned from Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms for inciting the rioters who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6.
And in October, Republicans called foul after Facebook and Twitter reached the reach of a disputed story in the New York Post about President Biden’s son Hunter (Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey later cited the platform’s decision to remove the NY Post Twitter account “a mistake.”). The new Florida law appears to be addressing these issues.
Florida Democrats called the bill a “political agenda that helps build a political base.” Democratic state Rep. Joe Geller said it was “wrong for the government to address private companies”.
The bill is now in the hands of the Florida Senate and Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to sign it when it reaches his office.
Disney and Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Saturday. Twitter declined to comment.